Massachusetts bill would take guns away from those ‘at risk’

Massachusetts lawmakers have proposed a bill that would let authorities take guns way from those deemed a threat to themselves or others.

The Associated Press reported the proposal, H.3081, would allow family members and law enforcement officers to request a judge to issue an “extreme risk protective order” against people experiencing personal crises that may put themselves or others at risk.

Once the protective order has been imposed, police could then take away the individual’s firearms. The initial order would last up to 10 days, at which point the individual could petition the court to remove the order. The judge would then decide to either remove the order or extend it for up to one year.

Supporters, such as Democrat Rep. David Linsky, the bill’s sponsor, say the proposal aims to help people, including veterans, who are at risk of suicide or hurting others.

Linksy said he knew of several cases in which family members sought to have guns taken away from relatives suffering from mental health issues, only to have police inform them they did not have the authority to do so.

“If someone is having a temporary mental health problem but is a firearms owner, this will be a mechanism for mental health providers to temporarily get those guns out of their hands,” said Linsky.

Many gun rights supporters have voiced strong opposition to the bill. Jim Wallace, executive director of the Gun Owners Action League of Massachusetts, said the bill raises major civil rights issues.

“We’re actually pretty concerned about the bill. I think it’s an extraordinarily dangerous bill in terms of civil rights and public safety,” Wallace said. “It’s a sound bite.”

“We’re labeling someone an extreme risk and taking their civil rights away and letting them walk away? That’s a horrific situation,” Wallace continued. “We’re ignoring the human element. We’re ignoring the situation. There are a lot of other ways they can hurt themselves and others.”

Linsky disagreed with Wallace’s argument, saying guns only make these situations worse.

“Gun advocates for years have been saying it’s not a gun problem, it’s a mental health problem. Here it is a court finding that there is a mental health problem and the gun extremists still want these individuals to have guns to kill themselves or their family members or innocent people,” Linsky said.

The bill is intended, Linsky said, to “take away the guns and get them treatment rather than leaving them with their guns and hoping they get treatment.”

The proposal has 32 co-sponsors and has been referred to the Joint Committee on the Judiciary.